In what resembled a game of musical chairs, several top Russian civilian and military officials were replaced by their immediate predecessors. Thus Viktor Dakhnov was replaced as chief prosecutor of the pro-Moscow Chechen administration after serving for a period of three-and-a-half months; his successor, Vsevolod Chernov, had preceded him in the post. Dakhnov’s failure to take any effective action following recent depredations by Russian MVD forces in the Chechen villages of Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya may have been a factor behind his removal. Normally, an acting chief prosecutor of Chechnya serves for a six-month period (Strana.ru, June 25).
Similarly, as has been noted, General Vladimir Moltenskoi, acting commander of the Combined Group of Forces serving in Chechnya, has been replaced by his predecessor, General Valery Baranov, who returned from an extended leave. “The departure of General Moltenskoi,” the newspaper Kommersant observed, “may have been connected with the recent incident in Chechnya in which a 15-year-old adolescent, Magomed Tashukhadzhiev, shot a well-known [separatist] field commander, Magomed Tsagaraev, and two rebels who were with him, after they had killed the boy’s father…. Mr. Moltenskoi had then announced that the destruction of the bandit Tsagaraev was the result of a ‘many-days-long planned operation.'” Lastly, it is has been announced that General Ivan Babichev, the military commandant of Chechnya, has been replaced by Major General Sergei Kizyun. “The departure of Babichev,” Kommersant wrote, “redounds to the advantage of Chechen Premier Stanislav Il’yasov. The two did not work well together. Mr. Il’yasov had repeatedly complained that the commandant’s office was undermining the process of restoring the republic… and was incapable of establishing order at the checkpoints” (Kommersant, August 3).
On July 31, members of the elite Russian antiterrorist unit Al’fa swooped down on a hijacked bus in Mineral’nye Vody, Stavropol Krai and killed a lone gunman who had held forty-one passengers hostage for thirteen hours. The gunman was identified as Sultan-Said Idiyev, age 34, a Chechen (Moscow Times, NTV.ru, August 1).